Christopher Marcus writes: Many of us find, when we are no longer supported within the structure of the training, that our regular spiritual practice is harder to maintain. That’s why OneSpirit’s postgrad programme — the Mystery & Mastery Communities — can be a precious way to help each other nurture our connection with Spirit.
Spiritual practice (such as prayer, meditation and other forms) is seen as one of the most essential parts of our training as OneSpirit interfaith ministers. In the Student Handbook, among the many tasks in the ever changing curriculum, students are reminded at every stage to continue with their spiritual practice for (at least) half an hour a day.
As tutors, we ask the question what this actually means to each student, how she or he understands it, and how they are getting on with it. The answers are as diverse as the students: from sitting on a Zen mat for hours to walking the dog, from swimming in the sea to having sex.
It is not the tutor’s task to interfere or suggest something different, unless there is a question asked. Spiritual practice is a very intimate thing and has to be treated with great respect, whatever we as tutors might personally think.
Our task is sometimes to create exercises within the context of spiritual counselling to enable students to ask themselves whether they think they are doing enough, or maybe need help to find a different path if they feel the one they are on doesn’t work for them any more. Sometimes we encourage peer counsellors, over the months they work together, to check if the stress of daily life is taking its toll on our need for quiet time, and to support each other to maintain their spiritual practice.
Once we have been ordained and no longer have the structure of the training around us, we can feel very much left alone, and it is sometimes only our inner practice that keeps us centred. Much time has been spent by the faculty trying to find forms that might enable ministers to come together in order to overcome feelings of separateness or loneliness.
In my experience, our universal worship services (such as the OneSpirit Gatherings in London each month) are not in themselves an answer to such feelings. For many of us, these are not the places where the need to be together, to be part of the larger One Spirit community, can be met fully.
Of course, quite a few groups have been set up offering a deeper level of mutual support in the different areas that ministers live and work, and this is also happening between ministers in some professions, and among people with common interests. Some are well supported; and it is fair to say that many do not prove sustainable.
My hope is that the Mystery & Mastery Communities, each one working together for four years, can provide a more resilient container. The next one begins in September, with central themes the Eight-fold path and the Chakras. These weave through everything we will do and learn. Although essentially a Buddhist path, it is a timeless, all-encompassing path exercising those capacities that can make us into stronger, more confident — and above all, spiritually connected — human beings, supporting our spiritual practice to increase in strength.
This structure helps each member of the group to weave their inner practice, through each other’s support, into a shining vessel enabling the small ego to step back and the greater One Spirit to shine in the form of compassion and love. This, I believe, is the founding task of OneSpirit as an organisation, uniting all of us in our will to be true to the calling of the heart, through the clarity of deep understanding.
Christopher Marcus is a co-tutor on OneSpirit’s training programme for ministers and spiritual counsellors, and on the postgraduate programme, Mystery & Mastery Communities.
More about the M&Ms programme (on the section of this website for ministers & students only):